More than a dozen trucks completely blocked off Main Street last Saturday. One might have lamented the fire hazard, had they not been firetrucks. No one seemed overly concerned.
Garner Volunteer Fire and Rescue hosted its annual Fireman’s Day event on Oct. 5, drawing hundreds of residents for a day of music, food, a parade of firetrucks, a controlled burn, cash lotto for the adults, and fun and games for the kids.
What initially appeared to be record crowds started to dissipate later in the day, Deputy Fire Chief Tim Herman said, in part because of the unseasonably warm temperatures. But that didn’t stop large numbers from attending the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. event. Final fundraising totals won’t be known until November.
Children jumped in bouncy forts and obstacle courses, scaled a portable rock-climbing wall, and even played video games. The band Honey played music to liven the atmosphere as Garner fire employees served hot dogs and barbecue.
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“This is the highlight of their year,” Brooke Brooks said of her two small children, McKenna and Camden.
Asked their favorite part, McKenna pointed to the controlled fire the department put out in a demonstration. Camden said he liked both the fire and the parade.
Herman said the event, over 50 years old, has evolved over the years. In the beginning, the simple barbecue and parade has evolved to include many more moving parts, and now it also provides a different financial role.
“It started out to support the operation. Now (that fire departments are funded by tax dollars) we just continue to do it out of tradition, as a community event, to educate the public about fire prevention, and then with all the money we raise we support a bunch of charities.”
The department’s charity of choice, the Jaycee Burn Center of North Carolina, will receive about $5,000 from the event and firefighters will also provide gifts at Christmas for patients in the Burn Center. Other charities such as Relay for Life receive donations and events such as the monthly free meal for volunteer firefighters also take a share.
A raffle offered another chance to make money for the event – as well as patrons. Rick Earnhardt won the top $10,000 cash prize, and nine other attendees won prizes ranging from $1,000 to $100.
Many of the attendees have become regulars at the event. Jeremy Brown, who has lived in Garner 15 years, said he and his family come every year.
“(We come for the) good community fun, and to support the Garner Fire Department,” Brown said, shortly after his son Josh finished climbing the rock climbing wall.
John Suber, meanwhile, was watching and helping guide his young son as he played NCAA Football at a video game station set up nearby. He works as a fireman in Cary and serves as a volunteer for Garner Fire.
“We pretty much come every year,” Suber said. “It’s a good community gathering.”
The event also drew new patrons. Arthur Cohen moved to Garner in August from the northeast, and saw a good opportunity at the event.
“It’s something fun for the kids,” Cohen said.